The historians view
Questions for a history expert
Countess Erzsébet Báthory
How would you describe the period in history in which Countess Báthory lived?
The turn of 16th and 17th century was a particularly complicated period for Hungary. After the Battle of Mohács in 1526 the country split and a large part of Hungary, including the southern area of present day Slovakia, became ruled by the Ottoman Empire. The borders shifted based on the military successes of one or the other enemy party. In 1593–1606 the "Long War" (also known as the Fifteen Year War) took place and practically all the Hungarian nobility participated, including Erzsébet's husband Ferenc Nádasdy and the future Palatine Juraj Thurzo.
However, peacetime years were rarely nonviolent. Poorly supplied Turkish brigades continued to plunder the country, which was also exploited by the imperial army and burdened with war expenses. Confiscation of supplies and crop failure caused repeated epidemics and famines.
On the other hand, culture boomed. Schools and printing shops were founded by aristocratic courts, books were published and patronage work was done, primarily supporting students at universities abroad (particularly in Germany).
Where did Countess Báthory live most often?
After marrying Ferenc Nádasdy, Countess Báthory lived in Sárvár and Kereszstúr castles, the most remarkable of the main nádasdy family residences. She regularly visited all the other Nádasdy's properties at least once a year and occasionally stayed in Vienna, where the family owned a house together with the Batthyányi family. During the reconstruction of the castle in Sárvár, Countess Báthory spent more time at other residences.
Why did she travel so much?
Countess Báthory had to look after the Nádasdy estates, as her husband was mostly in military camps or at political meetings. Paid clerks took care of administrative duties, but someone had to monitor their honesty and the quality of their work. In the early modern period, this task was carried out by aristocratic ladies who representing their husbands in times when the husbands were fighting a war or sitting in assemblies.
Was Countess Báthory really cruel, or was it a necessity of the time?
In medieval and early modern times, violence was a tool for survival and people were not as sensitive to its manifestations as we are nowadays. Primarily it resulted from the aristocracy-servant (superior-inferior) social structure. Second, violence was manifested in an open way from public executions to the permanent military conflicts of the region, and beating was considered a common and acknowledged upbringing method. Countess erzsébet Báthory might have been "cruel" even in that time, but it doesn't have the same meaning today.
And why is Countess Báthory said to be a heartless woman and the greatest murderess of all times?
This is a result of the legend created about the life of Countess Báthory. No other woman in history has been accused of committing and participating in so many crimes. Like other legends, this one was also bundled together with rumors, and due to fiction, films and sensationalist press, - as the proverbial saying goes about a lie repeated a hundred times, it has become the truth.
What was the relationship between the nobility and their subjects?
The social gap was, with some regional differences, common in every European country during the feudal age. As a ruling class, the nobility was at the head of political, military, social, cultural and religious life. They determined the laws and in a certain respect they were considered "almighty." However, this does not mean that subjects were completely helpless. When aware of their rights, they demanded them. The nobility profited from their work and thus had an interest in their prosperity and well being. The nobility cared about their protection, gave them exemptions from paying taxes and in meager times they offered necessary food. The sons exhibiting skills from a poor family were often educated by the nobility. The extent of goodwill shown by nobility was individual: some were said to be outspoken humanists and others were cruel and had many disputes with their subjects; therefore, they might have become the victims of revenge.
What medical treatments were used at that time?
The permitted medicine practices, surgery and traditional medicine, followed empirical findings known for several centuries. The doctor performed similar to an internist today in that he diagnosed and treated patients without operating. Surgery, including amputations, large and small operations, pulling out teeth, correcting broken limbs etc. was carried out by surgeons who studied with an older surgeon or barber-surgeon. In the countryside, the role of a doctor was performed mainly by an herbalist, based on knowledge gained from predecessors and their own experience. They often worked as midwives, too. Because of occasionally healing patients, or on the other hand failure to do so, herbalists were sometimes accused of using magic and became victims of witch-hunts. In aristocratic households, if the family was rich enough there was usually an educated doctor. These doctors often worked in towns and were called to the manor houses when needed. These households had relatively well-stocked libraries with many titles covering the subject of medicine and herbaria, which the mistress (looking after the health of the whole family and court) used for "bloodless" methods of healing, usually with the help of an herbalist or barber-surgeon. Operations carried out by barber-surgeons were particularly drastic because they were done without anesthesia, and wounds were disinfected by cauterization. Considering the insufficient hygiene, even the simplest operation could become fatally infected.
Was it possible to judge and sentence Countess Báthory for killing and torturing her subjects?
Members of nobility could be accused of killing a subject, but these disputes were hardly ever brought to court because subjects would receive a financial compensation anyway, thus it was usually solved out of court. On the other hand we should remember that noblemen did not kill their subjects as a pastime, because they would be destroying their own possessions and work force. There was also a lack of population (because of wars, epidemics, etc.) during the period in which Countess Báthory lived, so a lord killing a subject was rare. When a lord killed somebody belonging to another nobleman, the one who suffered damage could bring him to court (which he did if the problem was not settled out of court). To be specific, Countess Báthory could be brought to court if the girls purportedly taken to her were from villages belonging to other noblemen.
How the law and sanctioning worked those times?
Hungarian law was old customary law defined in the Code of Štefan Werbőczy in 1517. The code contained all known legal standards based on customary law and partially on leading cases. The penal code did not exist, every case was judged individually, and punishments were assessed by judges (often influenced by corruption, origin of the accused, bailsmen, property etc.). Towns had different standards based on the German town law. The subjects were in the competence of a squire, who executed it in person or he deputed it to one of his clerks.
Was there an Inquisition and were women burned to death for witchcraft?
There had not yet been an Inquisition in Hungary, which was caused by an unstable position of the Catholic Church (and strong position of Protestants) and by the danger from Turks in particular. There were some processes with witches, an average of about 4 to 5 cases per year, but nothing compared to Western Europe. The peak time of witch-hunting in Hungary was 1720–1740.
What was the position of the church compared with the power of suzerain over their land?
The Catholic Church experienced its greatest decline of power in Hungary during Countess erzsébet Báthory's lifetime. Many noblemen converted to Lutherism or Calvinism in the second half of the 16th Century, they usually had a priest of their religion in the domain. The church could not intervene into the feoffer matters; however, priests were authority and could have an influence on the suzerain.
How many years did the average women live then during the 16th Century?
There has not been elaborate study on the average length of life up to now because not enough reliable data and records exist, so we can only estimate the length. The average life expectancy of a woman is assessed to have been 45 years old. We should take into account a high death rate in younger women during childbirth, overall exhaustion of the organism after many pregnancies (some noblewoman gave birth to more than 20 children), poor healthcare and strident living conditions.
What habits and fashion were there?
The nobility paid a lot of attention meticulous to their appearance. The reports of buying expeditions and the lists of acquired textiles, haberdashery and various precious goods are valuable sources for learning about the fashion and tastes of the time. We have an image of high demand for luxury, esthetic needs and material culture.
If we look at the portrait galleries of Hungarian aristocracy, we find that the men's garments were particularly unique and differed from western fashions from the 16th to 18th century. The clothing of wealthy men and the bourgeois class was also affected by foreign styles. Mainly Turkish patterns were employed together with Italian, German and Spanish fashion for the aristocratic wardrobe. This influence first appeared in the Hungarian military garments, which adopted the lightweight, comfortable and sensible style of the Turkish cavalry's clothing in the 2nd half of the 15th century. Some experts say that in the period most important for Hungarian history (the Battle of Mohács), their fashion most resembled their irreconcilable enemy. From Ottomans they differed only in headgear – instead of the Turkish turban they wore caps (usually low ones in conic shape, decorated with feathers attached with precious pins). In the 2nd half of the 16th century, such clothing became popular especially among Protestant aristocracy, from whom the bourgeois class then adopted it.
Of course materials used, the length and decoration of dresses and accessories changed over the period. The basic style and ensembles endured, as well as decorative elements emphasizing the domestic colour and giving the Hungarian fashion a unique character stabilized. The typical features used were rich golden and silver embroidery with the Renaissance elements, decorating with braiding, strings and chenille from silk, cotton or woolen yarn and gold and silver threads, and complicated jewelries such as decorative clasps and buttons. Two lines in the development are also proved by the existence of the guilds of German tailors, making clothes for people living in towns, besides Hungarian tailors.
The men's garment consisted of a shirt, tight coat and loose overcoat. The shirts were usually made of white linen; the rich often wore even two – the undershirt worn as underwear, and a shorter embroidered shirt over it. The coat, called dolomán, usually had a narrow stand-up collar, long tight sleeves, and it buttoned with buttons and eyelets from the neck to the waist. The coat itself was very tight and from the waist down it was widened. Its oldest form got to the ankles.
Over dolomán, an overcoat called mentieka was worn. The overcoat was loose fitting and longer, usually sleeveless or with short decorative sleeves only. The collar could be stand-up or broad and pointed. Mentieks also buttoned with the traditional buttons and eyelets, but they were rather decorative – the coat usually covered the shoulders. On the chest it was fastened with precious clasps and chains. The winter mentieks were fur-lined.
Footwear is mentioned very rarely. We can be sure that Turks brought high leg boots and slippers; also ankle boots lacing from the inner side and provided with metal on the heel were imported from Turks. All shoes had silver metal spurs.
A common accessory was gloves. The material used varied – lynx, otter or musk, and textile for fingerless summer gloves or finger winter gloves.
Special attention was paid to headgear. The caps were usually made of felt; their shape was flat with bent welt. For winter caps, fur was used; sometimes also combined with felt and other expensive materials like velvet or brocade.
The women's fashion was rather Spanish in style utilizing a neckband and cuffs. The cut of a dress included a bodice with a richly frilled skirt and a splendid apron (or a simple one for casual days). Married women covered their head with a bonnet and hats were worn for special occasions. The over garment was similar to the men's overcoat, as well as the shoes. The material used and colours were also comparable to those used for men's clothing, but women wore more jewels and their clothes were embroidered with pearls, gems or gold threat.
How did Countess Báthory and her husband die?
Erzsébet Báthory died on 21st August 1614 in Cachtice, in her own residence, at the age of 54. The cause of death is unknown. It might have been heart failure or possibly also dysfunction of other organs, as shortly before death she complained she was cold and she put a pillow under her legs. She could also have had problems with her kidneys; however, it has not been proved. We are sure she died with a clear mind because according to the description of her last dialogue she fluently conversed with her guard.
Countess Báthory's husband Ferenc Nádasdy died on 14th January 1604 at the age of 49. We do not know the exact cause of death, only that he had been ill for a longer time. It might have been a result of permanent physical strain in the battles against the Turks, consequences of life in military camps, riding, injuries etc.
What happened to Countess Báthory's immense wealth?
Her property was devolved to the heirs apparent: her son Pavel and two daughters, Karatarina, who married Drugeth, and Anna, who married Zrínská. It had been passed to them before Erzsébet died, and the way of dividing her fortune was confirmed in her testament. She also bequeathed some trifles and smaller amounts of money to her servants, which was a tradition in her times.
What else should we know about the Countess Báthory?
We should mention that like many other noblemen and noblewomen of that time Countess Báthory supported the education of poor boys at universities abroad and she often defended her subjects when someone tried to hurt them or to do some harm to them. She led the typical life of noblewoman and we do not have any sources from which we could conclude that her contemporaries considered her bad or eccentric, weird. This reputation appeared after her death, not earlier.
Why was only one portrait of her preserved? Do we know something about its painter?
The pictures preserved of Countess Báthory up to now were not probably painted in that period. However, based on the style of her garments they could have been painted as copies of an original painting in the early 17th century. Unfortunately, we do not know anything about the painter.
How many children did the Countess Báthory have, and what was their fate?
We know about five children; however, it cannot be excluded that there was a child born dead or living for a very short period of time – this was typically not recorded in the written documents (letters). Daughters Anna and Katarina lived to adulthood; sons Pavel and Andrej and daughter Ursula died when they were children.
Where did the immense fortune of the Báthory family come from?
The Báthory family gained their fortune as reward for services done for their ruler – particularly in various battles and wars over several centuries, and for their support as noblemen for the king. Their property became larger and larger by inheritance, by purchase and marriage of course.
What age did Erzsébet Báthory marry and what was the reason of her marriage? Whose decision was it?
She married when she was fifteen, which was rather common at that time. The marriage was most likely arranged by their parents in advance, but at the time of wedding both Erzsébet and Ferenc (who was 20) were orphans. The reasons – possibly political and property ones – were usual in this period of history.
Do we know something about Countess Báthory's childhood and parents?
There is much literature about Nádasdy's parents; his father was educated in humanities and a particularly capable man with a wide range of knowledge. He held the highest position of the Hungarian kingdom - he was a Palatine. His wife was much younger, but their marriage was a prototype of love and understanding. They were not a husband and wife only formally, which was not so common and natural at that time (their correspondence is available and has been published).
Báthory's parents were also from the elite class. Her mother had been married for three times because she became a widow twice when she was relatively young. The father and mother both came from the Báthory family, from its two lines. We know almost nothing about erzsébet's childhood, as hardly any documents have been preserved.
What was erzsébet Báthory's education?
She was in all probability well educated (considering that period of time) – at the same level as aristocratic boys. Erzsébet could read and write in Hungarian and Latin, and some sources say she could also speak Greek and German. She must have been taught by an excellent family tutor.
And what about her hobbies and taste?
Unfortunately, we do not know anything.
What was the origin of the legend about Countess Báthory's eternal youth?
The legend was created around the year 1720 by Jesuit Ladislav Túróczi, and it was published in his topography of Hungary (Ungaria suis cum compedio data…). The story was then taken over to the book of Notitia Hungariae novae historico geographica by Matej Bel (1735-42). This book was considered credible, as it was written by someone with a high level of knowledge and therefore the story taken from the previous book by Túróczi's was not questioned.
What was Erzsébet Báhory's general state of health? Was she really anemic, as it is said?
We do not have any information about her health. Only there is mentioned in the correspondence that she had had some illnesses of temporary character, but we cannot determine them. That she was anemic is a fictive idea of some authors' as it has never been proved.
Do we know today if she had any friends and who they were?
Because there is little in the way of documentation left about Countess Báthory, many things can be only assumed. She and her husband were certainly close to some members of the Batthyányi family. Erzsébet kept in touch with them even after her husband's death, especially with Ferenc Batthyányi who advised her and help her in some economic and military issues.
Could you tell us what her usual day was like?
Like other noblewomen, she probably got up very early (around 5am) and after breakfast looked after the work at the manor house. She managed the servants, checked if all the work was done - often outside the house, – then she had to go for short trips – she also wrote letters. Around 11am she had lunch and then she did similar activities as in the morning. She also had to look after her children and nannies and tutors. Women did handcraft a lot, but also went for hunts, rode horses and paid shorter or longer visits to their neighbours and relatives. They could play a musical instrument or listen to musicians, and sometimes there was a dance party with singing. Some women read a lot. Dinner was usually served at 6pm, and if it was dark and there were no visitors they usually went to bed early. However, entertaining herself till midnight if she had a particular interest was possible.
It is said that her body cannot to be found. Is there any historically acceptable explanation?
Her remains were placed in the church in Cachtice, probably in the vault that has not been opened because of the poor structural condition of the altar. The register of dead people mentions that some bodies were buried in the vault next to hers in the 17th century, but it has not been investigated up to now and we do not know the exact place of her burial.
What religion was she?
She was a Calvinist, her husband was a Lutheran, the children were also baptized as Protestants. She did not change her religion – for Nádasdy it was not probably important and she was allowed to retain her original religion. This was common; however, sometimes brides were forced to convert to their husbands' church.
What other noteworthy personalities were there in the Báthory family?
The Báthory family included district administrators, earls, counts, provincial judges and captains, but the most remarkable character was Štefan Báthory. In addition to the Principality of Transylvania, Stefan Báthory held the title of Polish King and was one of the greatest politicians during the period of Turkish occupation. In the middle of the 16th century, the Báthory family possessed 4299 vassals' settlements in 19 regions; Stefan presided not only from an aspect of his wealth, but also his power. The family had many supporters, but on the other hand there were many envious people and enemies. The Polish King was notorious for a variety of reasons: some called him "a tyrant with bloody hands" and others declared him an "enemy of women." According to some people he died of syphilis, others say it was because of epilepsy, which occurred in his family.
Zigmund Báthory was Stefan's nephew. From his father he inherited Transylvania Principality, but he disowned it twice and finally changed it for the Countship of Oppeln. Some historians say he suffered from the family illness – epilepsy. He is also said to have struggled with impotency, but according to others he was a homosexual, which should be a reason for his behaving like a genius at times and a lunatic others, as a hero and as a coward. He was exceptionally educated, an esthete and rhetorician, he surrounded himself with Italian scholars and artists and he hated criticism. Zigmund's court was similar to Italian Renaissance courts, and his servants were mainly Italians. Zigmund's most controversial acts were the imprisonment and execution of several Transylvanian noblemen (including his own brother Baltazar) in August 1594; the reason was accusation of conspiracy that should have resulted in the assassination of Stefan. When he rationalized his order to execute the opponents, he stated he had acted in favor of the country. Zigmund died in Bohemia in 1613, forgotten and in relatively poor conditions. According to some records he died of heart attack, but there was also rumour of poison.
Today, some historians say that if he had not done it Transylvania would have fallen to the Turks. Juraj Thurzo was of the same opinion at the time. The only Hungarian aristocrat to object to Zigmund's act was Ferenc Nádasdy.
Gabriel Báthory, Prince of Transylvania, was Erzsébet's nephew. He was said to be tyrannical, cruel and sexually debauched, but his life has not been investigated sufficiently up to now. However, it is known that his successor Gabriel Bethlen accused three of Báthory's relatives of witchcraft in 1614, 1618 and 1621 – one of them was Báthory's sister Anna. The list of indiscretions included incestuous relationships, in which Gabriel Báthory played an important part. These disputes were started by Bethlen, who aimed to gain the properties of the accused women.
Gabriel Báthory became Prince of Transylvania as a successor of childless Bocskai. Gabriel Báthory died in an assassination attack together with his counselor and servants while in a carriage on their way to observe a military camp by Varadín. Báthory fought back, but was finally killed. The assassins were his own friends and supporters, whom had been given significant position and property but they betrayed him. After he was killed, they stripped him of everything and threw the body to a creek.
In modern historiography, Gabriel Báthory's "bad reputation" was partially created because of his personal relationship with Gabriel Bethlen. In fact, his short period of reign was no bloodier than that of other Transylvanian princes, was typical during cruel wartimes and a standard attitude of the time. Gabriel Báthory's debauchery is only recorded in the memories of chroniclers whose existence depended on Bethlen. Bethlen was not only the author of the above-mentioned accusations of the three family heiresses to the Báthory property, but also himself the creator of many false accusations towards Countess Báthory. It cannot be ruled out that Gabriel Báthory lived a very active life, which could have formed a breeding ground for exaggerated records of the number of his sexual relationships.
Is there something known about the relationship between Erzsébet and Ferenc? Do we have any of their correspondence?
Their personal correspondence has not been preserved, only some letters by Ferenc Nádasdy addressed to somebody else. In these letters, nádasdy talks about his wife with love, he mentions she is ill or that her state has improved. Before he died he asked Batthyányi to look after Erzsébet, which he did. A similar letter was also sent to Thurzo, who was not such a good friend of Nádasdy's, so we can conclude that Nádasdy made the request because he predicted Thurzo's career and thought his widow would need more protectors.
We do not have any objects preserved that belonged to Erzsébet Báthory, only her testament exhibited in the Regional Archive in Budapest. What are graphologists' opinions about her personality, based on investigating her handwriting?
There are different opinions about erzsébet Báthory's character, even from the same expert.
Klára Ácsová, the graphologist analyzing Báthory's signature (because there is no other known example of her writing) gave the following opinion: partially due to her decadent nature, but also as a result of sexual dissatisfaction, sadism overcame her more and more. Her sadism might have originated in unfulfilled love because she was forced to marry somebody other than whom she loved. This broke her and initiated increasing cravings for revenge in her. She was mischievous, dangerous and harming her surroundings. We can equate her with Lucrezia Borgi, but Erzsébet Báthory was more realistic and deliberate. According to her handwriting, she was not schizophrenic or mad, as some of her biographers say.
The Hungarian judge I. Szádeczky-Kardoss had another graphological done for her comprehensive study. She also asked Klára Ács, who investigated not only Báthory's signature, but the whole coherent text of the testament, which has been proved to be autographic. All the names, dates and significant data appearing in the text were blacked out, therefore the expert could not have any idea whose handwriting she was analyzing. She learned from the handwriting that its author had been a strong, determined and self-confident personality, with a logical mind and manly character. These qualities and cold character were raised in her by a strict and cold upbringing. She was realistic, critical, could not stand resistance, and stood high above the others. She was not much loved, rather respected – not due to her cruelty, but her uncompromising attitudes, strictness and frequent humiliating of the others. People were not afraid of her punishing hand, but of her eyes and mouth – there are other kinds of punishment than beating. She required order in everything. Her handwriting does not certainly show any signs of sadism or other sexual deviation, neither signs of pathology – except for occasional hysteria. However, the signature, coming from the period right before she died, i.e. after the three-year internment, bears signs of schizophrenia.
When the graphologist was repeatedly asked about signs indicating sadism or other sexual deviation, she always gave a definitely negative answer. This analysis contradicted the previous one, but it was no mystery or deception. In the first case, the graphologist worked from a poor quality reproduction of the signature, printed from the engraving. With the testament, she had access to a larger piece of text when doing the second analysis.
Another graphological analysis was carried out by Tomáš Gugenberger. His view of the personality and character of Erzsébet Báthory is completely different. She only had few good qualities: religiousness, generosity and dignity seemed to be very important for her, and sometimes she had an optimistic mood (at least when writing a letter to Erzsébet Czobor, a wife of her future judge, Palatine Juraj Thurzo). She had many bad qualities and weaknesses: she was self-contented, impatient, emotional, egocentric, distrustful, insensate, irritable, impulsive, unpredictable, indecisive and guileful. Her intellectual abilities were poor and she was controlled by strong sexual desire, cruelty and self-indulgence.
These features are present already in the letter from 1606 but, according to the graphologist, that was not all. In 1610 a tendency for criminality, cruelty, whimsicality, unstableness and perversity joined, and all these features determined her sadism. Also a mental disorder appeared.
So even the graphologists do not agree on the characteristics of Countess Báthory's personality. When the expert thought he was to analyze the handwriting of a mass killer, he looked for signs typical to such a person. Seak and you shall find, although objectivity and truth sustained a blow. Finally, there is suspicion that the writer of the letters Gugenberg examined was not Erzsébet Báthory but her scrivener.
Countess Báthory has become a symbol, a legend. Nobody would fight for the truth of her story today, as nobody did in 1610–1614. Why should we destroy such a great story? Why should we consider it from the view of presumed innocence when the then tendency has been the opposite – presumed guilt?
In connection with the legend, the underground and secret passages of Cachtice castle are often mentioned. Did they exist at all?
As in every other castle, they most likely existed in Cachtice also. Today they are destroyed and inaccessible, so we cannot give any exact information as to their length and position.
Has any archaeologist or expert on that era studied Countess Báthory's life and personality? Or is everything we know about her based on legends preserved in oral tradition?
Countess Báthory's personality became a primary focus for Irma Szádeczky-Kardossová. László Nagy, a historian specializing in armies and the military field, also wrote a lot about her in connection with her husband and legends in her family.
Was Countess Báthory ever brought to court for her alleged crimes?
No, Countess Báthory was never tried in a court of law.
And why was the trial not started?
I believe that the evidence collected by Thurzo's people was inferior and insufficient to sentence Countess Báthory. It is also said that the lack of an official judgement against her was the result of Thurzo's loyalty, but I think he was no fool and knew that he did not have enough evidence. Because the overall accusations had not been proved, Thurzo did not try to close the case.
Do you think it is possible that she killed as many women in her life as is mentioned in historical documents?
No. So many girls could not have disappeared without a trace particularly in a time when the country suffered from low population. And it would be very complicated to gather so many girls, murder them and dispose of them without noticing. Furthermore, the testimonies of alleged witnesses, or accomplices, were obtained through torturous methods and mention a much smaller number of "victims."
The Iron Maiden is often mentioned in connection with Erzsébet Báthory; however, this device has never been found. Do you think Erzsébet could have owned and used something like that?
No, I do not believe so. There is little chance that technically such a device could be used, and there is no mention of it in the documents from that period. It might be a fiction of the horrible war with the Turks.
WARS WITH TURKS
Where, why and how long were the wars with Turks?
Turkish troops penetrated Hungary in 1526 after the overwhelming defeat at Mohács. They stayed there until the end of the 17th century when the Treaty of Karlowitz was signed in 1699, liberating the whole of Hungary except Banát and Walachia. The conflicts were mainly located in the area of present-day Hungary, but because the borders shifted it also included present-day Slovakia. The Slovakian parts, while not occupied became a target for raids by Turkish cavalries who plundered the villages. They reached the mining towns, plundered the surroundings of Trenčín and Bytča, and crossed into Moravia as well. In Austria they advanced as far as Vienna.
What was the role of Countess Báthory's husband, Ferenc Nádasdy, in the previously mentioned wars?
Ferenc Nádasdy was one of the chief commanders and held the function of chief captain of the Hungarian troops. He was present at almost all battles and fought till his death in the battles of the Fifteen-Years War (which lasted 1593–1606; he died in 1604).
What was the life of a noblewoman left on her own, either because her husband was away at war or had died?
In the 16th century, the fate of a woman alone depended on her protectors. If she had powerful relatives or adult children, she could live a satisfied life on a reserved part of property. Widows often became targets of attacks aimed at their wealth; therefore younger women with smaller children often chose a new marriage. In case the husband was somewhere far away, the wife was usually respected and servants fulfilled her orders – she stood in for her husband in all matters related to living in the domain.
And what role did Juraj Thurzo play in these wars?
Similar to Nádasdy, Juraj Thurzo he was also present in the battles as a commander.
How many victims did the war claim?
The war lasted for 150 years and we cannot assume the exact number of resulting casualties.
There were heavy losses for the both sides; soldiers and civilians died in the direct conflicts, as well as from the resulting epidemics and hunger that plagued the plundered country, its damaged fields and bad crops.
JURAJ THURZO AND OTHER HISTORIC PERSONALITIES
What exactly was the function of a Palatine and what were his powers?
The Palatine was the highest positioned person in Hungarian kingdom, he was a direct deputy of the ruler and represent the king while he was absent (necessary especially after the battle of Mohács when the king's court moved from Óbuda to Vienna). The Palatine was authorized to make decisions on all state matters, the politics of the country and military issues, and he also had judicial power.
What was Thurzo's relationship to the Báthory family, especially Erzsébet and her husband?
The Thurzos and Báthorys were rather distant relatives. After Anna Nádasdy married Zrínskyi, the relational connection was strengthened because Thurzo's mother was Zrínskyi also.
Recently, new information appeared to indicate that shortly after Báthory's and Thurzo's death, Thurzo's daughter Anna was supposed to marry Paul Nádasdy, but he finally married Judita Forgách, and after her death, Judita Révay.
What was the connection between Thurzo and the Habsburgs? Which side was he on and what political role did he play?
Thurzo was brought up in Vienna as a companion of Prince Ernest Habsburg and he was a loyal supporter of the Habsburgs, despite being of different religion. Thurzo considered the Habsburgs the only viable force to defend the region against the Turks and his political role was very important. The Palatine functioned like a governor, he represented the ruler in all political matters and had judicial power and military rank as well. In the time of war with Turks and the civil war (Bocskai), continuous disputes with Transylvania and religious disturbances in the country, Palatine Thurzo was required to act tactically at all times. He was a master at this and chose the policy of compromises.
How and where did Thurzo die?
Palatine Thurzo died in his castle in Bytča on 24th December 1616 after an extended illness.
How could Thurzo, a Squire, become a Palatine?
Thurzo was not a Squire, but the Thurzo family received an aristocratic title in Hungary in the 15th century (they probably came from Austria). Their property was expanded with donations (especially from king Zigmund of Luxembourg), by marriage and with purchases. The Thurzos were one of the wealthiest families in the 15th century, and together with the Fuggers dynasty of Augsburg they owned Central Slovakian mines. Thurzo's father was a bishop in Nitra, but he was not ordained. His family line was threatened with dying out so he left the church, converted to Lutherism, married and became chairman of the Hungarian Chamber (financial and economic institution). At that time the dynasty included several family fortunes and they consolidated great wealth, particularly in the area of contemporary Slovakia (Orava, Lietava, Bytča, Spiš, Tematín etc.)
What was Palatine Thurzo's education?
As a companion of Prince Ernest Habsburg, we can suppose he received the best education. Palatine Thurzo had a good command of Hungarian, Latin, German and Slovak, was versed in the humanities and was obviously educated in law. However, he did not study at any foreign university.
What was the influence of The Renaissance on Hungary and when did it come there?
The Renaissance, the thought and art movement forming the epoch between Gothic and Baroque, was rare in the area of Hungary (including present-day Slovakia). Its biggest influence can be recorded at the turn of the 16th and 17th century, particularly in the architecture of mining towns. Italian architects came to the region and their impact is apparent in the character and exterior decoration of buildings. Bourgeois houses were reconstructed and enlarged, and grandiose Renaissance palaces like those in Banská Štiavnica were built.
The art itself was not influenced much by Renaissance though it had a slight impact on literature, particularly the works of polyhistors, e.g. Matěj Bel. We do not know much about its influence on fine arts, as there is little information on Slovak Renaissance painters. It seems natural that due to the constant conflicts with the Turks in the area, people were more occupied with the defense of their property.
What was Caravaggio like? Do we have any proof of his homosexuality?
As is obvious from his biography, Caravaggio was a man for whom establishing relationships was very difficult. We can only deduce from his stormy life that he was driven by inner tensions that caused particular displays of aggressive behavior, which he used to boost his confidence and which resulted in frequent affrays and even a murder.
The assumptions that Caravaggio was homosexual could have originated from two facts about his life: first, his period of apprenticeship when he painted in various studios. It was a strictly masculine or boyish community and women did not have access to the world of art at that time, as they were not allowed an education in this field. The only exceptions were close relatives of artists who grew up in the artistic milieu or became heiresses of artistic workshops. In that male dominated environment, various relationships perhaps originated, consider also the alleged but never proved homosexual orientation of his predecessors Leonardo da Vinci or Michelangelo.
Secondly, some historians attest to Caravaggio's homosexuality by the fact that in his early works he often depicted himself, which indicated a sort of narcissism typical for many homosexuals.
From the materials to which we have access nowadays, we can conclude that Caravaggio never had a long, serious relationship with a woman. His paintings display the same female faces, and these women came from a limited circle of people among whom he picked models for his paintings.
Both these theories are only hypothetical and there is no actual proof of Caravaggio's homosexuality.
Carravaggio is said to have disappeared for 4 years, and nobody knows where and why. Or have we discovered something?
There exists no solid documentation that explains what he did in 1588–1593. According to some historians, Caravaggio improved his painting in Milano or Brescia, others say he was in Venice. After extensive historical research, it is agreed that in 1590 he lived in Roma already.
How and where did Caravaggio die?
In July 1610, when he was allowed to return to Rome, Caravaggio sailed to Porta Ercole, a Spanish harbour on the borders with the papal state. Immediately after putting in he was mistakenly arrested. After being released he wanted to continue sailing, but the ship had left. He obstinately waited the whole day in the relentless summer heat for the next ship to approach the coast. He likely died of sunstroke, alone and abandoned on 18th July 1610, at the young age of 37 years.